ARRL

ARRL Letter

 

***************
The ARRL Letter
Vol. 24, No. 40
October 14, 2005
***************

IN THIS EDITION:

* +ARRL to FCC: Shut down Virginia BPL system
* +Northeast US ARES teams ready for more rain
* +Civilian in space "phones home" via ham radio
* +Ham radio hurricane recovery support operations ending
* +New BPL database restrictions irk ARRL
* +W1RFI to be guest lecturer at AMTA Symposium
*  Solar Update
*  IN BRIEF: 
     This weekend on the radio
     ARRL Certification and Continuing Education course registration
    +Field Day 2005 results now available to ARRL members
     Scott Redd, K0DQ, sworn in as National Counterterrorism Center Director
     ARRL announces advisory committee appointments
     Transpacific reception of Canadian amateur LF signals confirmed

+Available on ARRL Audio News <http://www.arrl.org/arrlletter/audio/> 

===========================================================
==>Delivery problems (ARRL member direct delivery only!):
letter-dlvy@arrl.org
==>Editorial questions or comments: Rick Lindquist, N1RL, n1rl@arrl.org
===========================================================

==>ARRL CALLS ON FCC TO SHUT DOWN VIRGINIA BPL SYSTEM

In support of Amateur Radio complaints of interference, the ARRL this week
formally asked the FCC to instruct the City of Manassas, Virginia, to shut
down its broadband over power line (BPL) system. Communication Technologies
(COMTek) operates the BPL system over the municipally owned electric power
grid. The League says the facility has been the target of interference
complaints, none of which has resulted "in any action or even interest" on
the part of the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) staff. In
the meantime, the ARRL says, interference to local Amateur Radio stations
continues.

"The Manassas system currently causes harmful interference, and it is not
compliant with applicable FCC Part 15 regulations, including Section 15.5,"
the ARRL said in a 16-page filing to the OET and the FCC's Enforcement
Bureau. "Whatever actions either Manassas Power or Communication
Technologies Inc might have taken to relieve the problem have not been
successful, and it persists to the present time. This is precisely the
situation in which the system must be shut down, pending successful
resolution of the severe interference."

Two years ago, the ARRL put Manassas officials on notice that the League
would act on behalf of its members to ensure full compliance with FCC
regulations once the city's BPL system, then in the trial stage, started up.


The ARRL and the complaining Manassas radio amateurs--George Tarnovsky,
K4GVT, Donald Blasdell, W4HJL, and William South, N3OH--cite interference so
severe that "no communications can be conducted in the amateur allocations
subject to interference," said the ARRL, which accused the city of
"stonewalling in the face of repeated complaints."

"The parties cannot be said to be working this out cooperatively, since the
City of Manassas and its BPL operator are currently in full denial," the
League said.

Correspondence and reports from Tarnovsky, Blasdell and South outlining
repeated contacts with the BPL operator and a lack of effective
resolution--and even public denial--of the interference, accompanied the
League's filing. All three hams suggested city officials and COMTek have not
acted in good faith in addressing the interference. Efforts by the BPL
operator to "notch" band segments have proven ineffective. "Our continued
monitoring of the Manassas BPL system has shown they continuously open the
notches and/or increase signal levels, subsequently interfering with
licensed services again," Tarnovsky asserted. "This can only lead to one
conclusion--they are not taking the interference issue seriously."

Field tests conducted not only by Manassas radio amateurs but by the US
Department of the Navy established that the city's BPL system "was an
interference generator at distances of hundreds of feet from the modems on
overhead power lines," the ARRL wrote.

The FCC adopted new Part 15 rules to govern BPL deployment a year ago this
week. Manassas earlier this month formally inaugurated its citywide
deployment of the high-speed Internet BPL system, which it touts as "the
first large-scale commercial BPL deployment in North America." The city
receives a portion of BPL subscriber revenues to offset its costs of
installing and maintaining the system.

A copy of the League's filing to the FCC is available on the ARRL Web site
<http://www.arrl.org/tis/info/HTML/plc/filings/Manassas-BPL-complaint-10-05.
pdf>. 

Additional information about BPL and Amateur Radio is on the ARRL Web site
<http://www.arrl.org/bpl/>. 

To support the League's efforts in this area, visit the ARRL's secure BPL
Web site <https://www.arrl.org/forms/development/donations/bpl/>.

==>ARES TEAMS IN NORTHEAST BRACE FOR MORE RAIN

Some two dozen Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) volunteers responded
this week in southwestern New Hampshire, where flooding ravaged communities
in the vicinity of Alstead and Keene and claimed at least three lives. ARRL
New Hampshire Section Emergency Coordinator Dave Colter, WA1ZCN, said ARES
volunteers provided communication support for the American Red Cross and the
state Bureau of Emergency Management as well as for the City of Keene. 

"We were able to get communication into places where the state does not have
communications and probably still does not have," he said Wednesday evening.
In anticipating additional deployment, Colter said, ARES teams planned to
position themselves in advance in areas that might become isolated by
further flooding. They stood down at week's end.

Heavy rainfall in the Northeast over the past week has swollen rivers and
streams in several states, and the resulting flooding badly damaged homes
and highways, while fallen trees took out electrical power in some places.
In all, at least 10 people have died throughout the region. 

Northern New Jersey SEC Steve Ostrove, K2SO, reports Passaic County
ARES/RACES was on full alert assisting the Office of Emergency Management in
the wake of severe flooding as the Passaic River overflowed its banks.
Flooding also has been reported in Bergen and Essex counties. Some New
Jersey. residents have been urged to evacuate. Northern New Jersey got up to
six inches of rain in two days on top of a similar deluge the previous
weekend.

Power was reported out in part of Connecticut as a result of the heavy rain,
and the University of Bridgeport was forced to cancel its classes on October
13. 

In Western Massachusetts, Section Manager Bill Voedisch, W1UD, reports the
Franklin County emergency operations center activated after flooding along
the Green River resulted in damage to residences in Greenfield. "Everyone
expects more rain from Worcester County to the New York state line,"
Voedisch told ARRL Headquarters October 13. "I don't know how much will
fall, but the weather report says as much as five inches. The ground is
saturated."

==>CIVILIAN SPACE TRAVELER "PHONES HOME" VIA HAM RADIO

During his eight days in space, Greg Olsen, KC2ONX, the International Space
Station's third civilian space traveler, touched base via ham radio with
students at three high schools, including his alma mater. He spoke October 5
with Princeton High School in Princeton, New Jersey, October 6 with Ft
Hamilton High School in Brooklyn, New York, and October 7 with Ridgefield
Park High School in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey. Olsen, who lives in
Princeton, was born in Brooklyn and graduated from Ridgefield Park High
School. One Princeton student wanted to know how much less time would pass
on the ISS than on Earth due to relativity.

"That depends on how long you're up here," responded Olsen, who has a
master's degree in physics and a doctorate in materials science. "Every
second you lose about a billionth of a second. That's because we're going
17,500 miles per hour." Eschewing a more technical explanation, Olsen said
the difference worked out to "about a microsecond a month." 

Another student asked Olsen what luxuries he missed most. "It's either good
food or a hot shower," he quipped. Olsen's contact with Princeton from NA1SS
was believed to be his first ham radio contact.

Serving as the Earth station for the first of Olsen's school contacts was
NN1SS at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, where Mark Steiner, K3MS,
and Dave Taylor, W8AAS, were at the controls. Tony Hutchison, VK5ZAI, was
the ground station for next day's contact with Ft Hamilton High School.
Olsen told students there that the first two civilian space travelers,
Dennis Tito, KG6FZX, and Mark Shuttleworth, got him excited about going into
space. "I'm old enough to remember when Sputnik was launched," allowed
Olsen, who's 60. "As a youngster, that really got me excited that people
could actually go into space."

Olsen said his experience aboard the ISS has "more than fulfilled" his
expectations. "You can only dream about what it's like to float about for a
long time," he said. "When you do it for a sustained period of time, it's
really different and exhilarating."

While in space, Olsen did some medical experiments for the European Space
Agency. He also took swab samples from various parts of the ISS for later
biological analysis. "I just love it up here," he said, but added, "I'd
hoped to do more science."

Olsen was able to answer 16 of the Princeton students' questions, and 11 of
those put to him by the Ft Hamilton students. The third scheduled contact
with Ridgefield Park High School was less successful than the two previous.
Early questions centered around Olsen's initial plans to bring the miniature
infrared imager his company, Sensors Unlimited Inc, had developed, to
observe Earth's atmosphere and agricultural regions. 

Olsen explained that due to a variety of circumstances, he was unable to
take the imager into space, but he explained that the device can be used to
sense the amount of water vapor. "If crops are very healthy, they'll have a
lot of water and they'll absorb heat--water absorbs heat--so the image will
look black on camera," he explained. "If the crops are dry they'll have very
little water and would reflect a lot of heat, so it will look white in our
image." 

Among other applications, he said, the device also could be used to
determine the amount of water in clouds. Olsen said experiments on Earth
using the device indicated that it could be used to detect the presence of
tumors. 

Earth station control operator Gerald Klatzko, ZS6BTD, lost contact with
NA1SS as Olsen was answering the fourth question from a student at
Ridgefield Park High. For all three contacts, an MCI-donated teleconference
link provided two-way audio for the school from the respective Earth
stations.

The ISS Expedition 12 crew of Commander Bill McArthur, KC5ACR, and Flight
Engineer Valery Tokarev, formally took over the space station October 8.
Olsen returned to Earth October 11 with the Expedition 11 ISS crew of John
Phillips, KE5DRY, and Sergei Krikalev, U5MIR, aboard a Soyuz transporter.

The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program
arranged the three contacts, and local radio amateurs assisted at the
schools. ARISS <http://www.rac.ca/ariss> is an international educational
outreach with US participation by ARRL, AMSAT and NASA.

==>AMATEUR RADIO HURRICANE RECOVERY OPERATIONS WINDING DOWN

Amateur Radio operations to support relief and recovery operations in the
wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita continued to wind down this week as
conventional telecommunication systems returned to working order. On October
9, ARRL Alabama Section Manager Greg Sarratt, W4OZK, shut down his American
Red Cross Amateur Radio volunteer intake operation in Montgomery. Sarratt
had overseen that function for about five weeks.

"Today, on the 37th day of Amateur Radio operations at the Montgomery,
Alabama, American Red Cross center, the amateur radios were powered down for
a final time," Sarratt said. "It was a strange feeling packing, saying
goodbye then walking out of the old Super Kmart building knowing I would not
return tomorrow." The Montgomery center is still operational for other Red
Cross relief and recovery efforts.

In addition to checking through volunteers, Amateur Radio station W4AP at
the Montgomery staging facility monitored day and night to keep in touch
with HF-equipped mobile operators traveling to or at their assigned
locations. 

After Sarratt and his volunteer staff spent their duty tour registering and
orienting hundreds of Amateur Radio volunteers for deployment to hard-hit
Gulf Coast communities, Sarratt spent a couple of days last week visiting
some of the American Red Cross shelters those volunteers went on to serve in
Mississippi.

"My tour included Yankie stadium in Biloxi, Hancock EOC [emergency
operations center] at Stennis Airport, the future Hancock EOC and Harrison
County EOC in Gulfport," Sarratt said. "Part of the tour was a visit to the
hardest-hit areas in each county. Currently, I do not have the words to
describe the devastation."

One visit was with Mississippi District Emergency Coordinator Tom Hammack,
W4WLF--volunteering at the Harrison County EOC. Sarratt reports that during
his stopover, Mississippi National Guard Lt Col Richard P. Martin presented
Hammack with a certificate of appreciation for his service. The certificate
reads, "For outstanding service and devotion to duty during Hurricane
Katrina disaster relief operations."

Hammack has been living in the EOC since Hurricane Katrina flooded and badly
damaged his house. In his off time, he's been attempting to work his way
through the damage and debris.

Sarratt said he enjoyed meeting the volunteers in the field and that his
time at the Montgomery ARC marshaling center was gratifying. "It has been a
pleasure working with all the American Red Cross personnel during this
relief operation," he said. "My job was made much easier by all the
excellent help and support shown to me by the ARC Response Technology Team
staff."

He also praised the volunteers, some of whom traveled significant distances
to help the Red Cross and other relief organizations and agencies, including
The Salvation Army, other faith-based groups, emergency management agencies
and EOCs. "A few amateurs signed up to be redeployed when we put out the
call, and many more inquired and sincerely wanted to redeploy," he said.

"This effort was a success and a huge help to the people and workers in the
devastated region," Sarratt concluded. "Many non-amateurs now know what
works when all else fails."

Red Cross Volunteer Services staffer Ginger Flynn, who worked with Amateur
Radio volunteers in Mississippi, reflected Sarratt's sentiments from the
agency's point of view. Flynn said that in mid-September, the Red Cross was
struggling with erratic cell phones and Internet connections for
communication.

"The hams solved all these problems, and we were able to communicate needs,
and meet emergency incidents immediately," she said. "These men and women
take their personal time and fund themselves to make this contribution to
the American Red Cross and the American people."

==>ARRL OBJECTS TO BPL DATABASE ACCESS LIMITS

The new Broadband over Power Line (BPL) Interference Resolution Web site
provided by the United Power Line Council (UPLC) and the United Telecom
Council (UTC) now is open <http://www.bpldatabase.org/>. But the ARRL has
taken strong exception to limitations the site's administrator, UTC, appears
to be imposing on the number of allowable licensee searches. A note on the
Web site cautions that each licensee "is allowed to search a limited number
of times each month" and advises them not to conduct random database
searches lest their access to the database be further restricted. ARRL CEO
David Sumner, K1ZZ, said the provision is inappropriate and the database
fails to meet the letter or spirit of the Part 15 BPL rules.

"This notice is totally unacceptable to the ARRL and should be equally
unacceptable to the Commission," Sumner said October 14 in a letter to FCC
Office of Engineering and Technology Acting Chief Bruce A. Franca. Sumner
noted that the new Part 15 rules speak of a "publicly available" and
"publicly accessible" database. "It is unacceptable for the database
operator to attempt to discourage the public from making full use of the
database by threatening to ration access," he asserted.

The FCC this week formally announced its designation of UTC as the Access
BPL database manager as mandated under Part 15 regulations governing BPL
that the Commission adopted one year ago today. The regulations spell out
specific interference-mitigation requirements for BPL systems and mandate
the new "BPL notification" database. The database is designed to provide
information for FCC licensees to contact BPL system operators in the event
of harmful interference a system may be generating.

Part 15 requires the database to include the name of the Access BPL
provider; frequencies of operation; postal ZIP codes served by the specific
BPL operation; the manufacturer and type of equipment and its associated FCC
ID number; contact information, including both phone number and e-mail
address of a person to facilitate the resolution of interference complaints,
and the proposed and/or actual date of Access BPL operation. BPL operators
have until November 19 to comply.

Sumner also said that requiring users to enter a ZIP code before gaining
access to the database "is clearly contrary" to the requirement that the
database be available to the public. "All of this information must be
accessible and available to the public without having to enter a ZIP code,"
he contended. "The ZIP code is simply one element in the database, not the
basis on which access to the remaining information may be restricted. There
can be no restriction to the public's access to any of the information
contained in the database." 

FCC rules require that BPL system operators supply information for the
database no later than 30 days prior to initiation of service. The
information must be available to the public no more than three business days
later. Sumner argues that making the database searchable only on the basis
of ZIP code conflicts with the advance notification requirement.

"This advance notice is required so that licensees may document the radio
frequency environment prior to activation of the BPL system," Sumner said.
"For the information to be available only in response to the entry of a ZIP
code renders the advance notice requirement meaningless and blocks the
achievement of the objectives for advance notice" spelled out in the FCC's
October 14, 2004, BPL Report and Order.

Sumner said the inadequacy of the ZIP code requirement is further
illustrated if a user happens to enter a ZIP code that apparently does not
match the database. This yields the message "No BPL Operations Found in Your
Area." It also directs users to contact the UPLC, providing written details
concerning the nature of any interference and of the user's licensed
operations, including location, frequencies, type of operation and a brief
description of the interference.

"This, too, is unacceptable," Sumner wrote. "UTC apparently intends to
restrict the availability of information to the public according to its own
definition of 'need to know.'" He said no FCC licensee or other radio user
is obligated to share such information with a third party, "and most
certainly not as a condition of access to information that is required by
FCC regulations to be available to the public."

Sumner called on Franca to immediately inform UTC to revise and correct its
BPL database system and bring it into full compliance with Part 15 no later
than November 19.

Because ARRL is operating a Motorola Powerline LV BPL system at W1AW in
cooperation with the manufacturer, the League is a BPL operator under Part
15. The ARRL has requested a user name and password for administrative
access to the database.

==>ARRL LAB MANAGER IS GUEST LECTURER AT AMTA 2005 SYMPOSIUM

ARRL Laboratory Manager Ed Hare, W1RFI, will be a guest lecturer during the
2005 Antenna Measurement Techniques Association (AMTA) Symposium October
30-November 4 at the Newport, Rhode Island, Marriott, 25 America's Cup
Avenue. Hare's free presentation Tuesday, November 1, at 7 PM, is open to
all Amateur Radio licensees. 

Arranged in cooperation between AMTA and ARRL, Hare's talk will focus on
Broadband over Power Line (BPL) and will provide background on the
electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) issues associated with this technology.
A presentation will follow on the antenna modeling and measurement
techniques ARRL uses to assess interference from BPL. It will include a
description of test methods and a program through which radio amateurs and
others can contribute to a utility-industry project to assess BPL systems. 

A member of the ARRL staff for more than 19 years, Hare is a member of the
IEEE EMC Society and the IEEE Standards Association and serves as a member
of the IEEE EMC Society Standards Development Committee, chairing its
recently formed BPL study project. 

More information on AMTA and the 2005 AMTA Symposium is available on the
AMTA Web site <http://www.amta.org/>.

==>SOLAR UPDATE

Solar seer Tad "Will the Sun ever Shine Again in the Northeast?" Cook, K7RA,
Seattle, Washington, reports: For the upcoming week, solar flux and sunspot
values should remain about the same, which is low. Predicted planetary A
index for Friday through Monday, October 14-17 is 10, 12, 10 and 5. 

According to Geophysical Institute Prague, October 18, 19 and 20 should be
quiet, October 17 quiet to unsettled, unsettled conditions on October 14 and
16, and unsettled to active conditions this Saturday, October 15.

Sunspot numbers for October 6 through October 12 were 28, 31, 24, 16, 11, 25
and 17, with a mean of 21.7. The 10.7 cm flux was 79.5, 78.8, 78.1, 78.9,
79.1, 77.6, and 76.8, with a mean of 78.4. Estimated planetary A indices
were 4, 11, 22, 9, 10, 6 and 1 with a mean of 9. Estimated mid-latitude A
indices were 2, 11, 16, 7, 7, 5 and 1, with a mean of 7.

__________________________________

==>IN BRIEF:

* This weekend on the radio: The Jamboree On The AIR (JOTA), the YLRL
Anniversary Party (SSB), the JARTS WW RTTY Contest, the Microwave Fall
Sprint, the Worked All Germany Contest, the Asia-Pacific Fall Sprint (CW),
the UBA ON Contest (2 m), the RSGB 21/28 MHz Contest (CW) and the Illinois
QSO Party are the weekend of October 15-16. JUST AHEAD: The ARCI Fall QSO
Party, the CIS DX Contest and the 50 MHz Fall Sprint are the weekend of
October 22-23. The CQ Worldwide DX Contest (SSB), the eXtreme CW World-Wide
Challenge, the 10-10 International Fall Contest (CW) and the F.I.S.T.S.
Coast to Coast Contest are the weekend of October 29-30. See the ARRL
Contest Branch page <http://www.arrl.org/contests/> and the WA7BNM Contest
Calendar <http://www.hornucopia.com/contestcal/index.html> for more info.

* ARRL Certification and Continuing Education course registration:
Registration remains open through Sunday, October 23, for these ARRL
Certification and Continuing Education (CCE) on-line courses: Amateur Radio
Emergency Communications Level 1 (EC-001), Radio Frequency Interference
(EC-006), Antenna Design and Construction (EC-009), Technician Licensing
(EC-010), Analog Electronics (EC-012) and Digital Electronics (EC-013).
Classes begin Friday, November 4. To learn more, visit the CCE Course
Listing <http://www.arrl.org/cce/courses.html> or e-mail the CCE Department
<cce@arrl.org>;.

* Field Day 2005 results now available to ARRL members: ARRL members may now
access the ARRL Field Day 2005 Web report and Scores database on the ARRL
Web site <http://www.arrl.org/members-only/contests/results/2005/FD/> (you
must log on to the ARRL Web site as a League member to view these pages).
The December issue of QST will include a full report on ARRL Field Day 2005.
Non-members will be able to download a PDF file detailing the results on or
about November 1. For more information, contact ARRL Contest Branch Manager
Dan Henderson, N1ND, <n1nd@arrl.org>;.

* Scott Redd, K0DQ, sworn in as National Counterterrorism Center Director:
Well-known DXer and contester John S. "Scott" Redd, K0DQ, has been sworn in
as the first director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). Vice
President Dick Cheney presided over a ceremonial swearing-in September 12,
at which Redd was accompanied by his wife, Donna, and several family
members. President George W. Bush announced June 10 that he was tapping
Redd, 61, to direct the new center. Redd officially assumed his new duties
August 1. 

* ARRL announces advisory committee appointments: The ARRL Membership
Services Department has announced the appointments of two advisory committee
chairmen. ARRL President Jim Haynie, W5JBP, has named Ward Silver, N0AX, to
a one-year term as the chairman of the Contest Advisory Committee (CAC).
Silver succeeds Joe Staples, W5ASP, who served with distinction at the helm
of the CAC for about two and a half years. Staples will remain the West Gulf
Division's CAC representative. Haynie also reappointed Jim O'Connell, W9WU,
to another one-year term as chairman of the DX Advisory Committee (DXAC),
which he's headed for the past two years.

* Transpacific reception of Canadian amateur LF signals confirmed: Low
frequency enthusiast Steve McDonald, VE7SL, reports the first confirmed
transpacific reception of Canadian Amateur Radio LF (137 kHz/2200 meters)
signals occurred October 4. "The slow-speed (QRSS) CW signals of VA7LF were
confirmed heard near Wellington, New Zealand, at the Wellington Amateur
Radio Club station at Quartz Hill," McDonald told ARRL. "Signals from the
ZM2E club station were heard in Canada as well, but propagation was not of
sufficient duration to enable a QSO to be completed." The next scheduled
transpacific tests will be in the spring. ZM2E and UA0LE hold the current
Amateur Radio two-way LF world record at a distance of 10,311 km. The
distance between VA7LF and ZM2E is approximately 11,700 km.

=========================================================== 
The ARRL Letter is published Fridays, 50 times each year, by the American
Radio Relay League--The National Association For Amateur Radio--225 Main St,
Newington, CT 06111; tel 860-594-0200; fax 860-594-0259;
<http://www.arrl.org/>. Jim Haynie, W5JBP, President.

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Material from The ARRL Letter may be republished or reproduced in whole or
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